There is a paucity of information on the effects of wildfire on carnivores. We studied the effects of a 237-km2 catastrophic wildfire in the Mazatzal Mountains, Arizona, on gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) and coyotes (Canis latrans). We indexed relative abundance 3 times each year from 1996 to 1998 using scat transects in burned and unburned areas. We collected scats to estimate diet and measured small mammal abundance and mast availability in 1997 and 1998. We also measured vegetation cover in burned and unburned sites. Gray fox indices declined 3 months postfire, but after 30 months, indices returned to preburn levels. Coyote indices did not change. Primary foods for both species in burned and unburned sites were mast (fruits of shrubs) and rodents, and diet comparisons between sites became similar as plant succession continued. Scat indices did not correlate with seasonal small mammal abundance. We suspect that the lower abundance indices of gray foxes were related to reduction in cover and food availability, because indices increased as vertical cover and mast crop increased. These data indicate that the effects of this catastrophic fire were short-term but also highlight the importance of preserving shrub and vegetation diversity for gray fox.
Cunningham, Stan C.; Kirkendall, LariBeth; and Ballard, Warren
"Gray fox and coyote abundance and diet responses after a wildfire in central Arizona,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 66
, Article 3.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol66/iss2/3